LifeSiteNews.com has obtained and made available online copies of two letters sent by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was recently elected Pope, to a German critic of the Harry Potter novels. In March 2003, a month after the English press throughout the world falsely proclaimed that Pope John Paul II approved of Harry Potter, the man who was to become his successor sent a letter to a Gabriele Kuby outlining his agreement with her opposition to J.K. Rowling’s offerings. (See below for links to scanned copies of the letters signed by Cardinal Ratzinger.)
As the sixth issue of Rowling’s Harry Potter series - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - is about to be released, the news that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger expressed serious reservations about the novels is now finally being revealed to the English-speaking world still under the impression the Vatican approves the Potter novels.
In a letter dated March 7, 2003 Cardinal Ratzinger thanked Kuby for her “instructive” book Harry Potter - gut oder böse (Harry Potter- good or evil?), in which Kuby says the Potter books corrupt the hearts of the young, preventing them from developing a properly ordered sense of good and evil, thus harming their relationship with God while that relationship is still in its infancy.
“It is good, that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly,” wrote Cardinal Ratzinger.
The letter also encouraged Kuby to send her book on Potter to the Vatican prelate who quipped about Potter during a press briefing which led to the false press about the Vatican support of Potter. At a Vatican press conference to present a study document on the New Age in April 2003, one of the presenters - Rev. Peter Fleetwood - made a positive comment on the Harry Potter books in response to a question from a reporter. Headlines such as “Pope Approves Potter” (Toronto Star), “Pope Sticks Up for Potter Books” (BBC), “Harry Potter Is Ok with the Pontiff” (Chicago Sun Times) and “Vatican: Harry Potter’s OK with us” (CNN Asia) littered the mainstream media.
In a second letter sent to Kuby on May 27, 2003, Cardinal Ratzinger “gladly” gave his permission to Kuby to make public “my judgement about Harry Potter.”
The most prominent Potter critic in North America, Catholic novelist and painter Michael O’Brien commented to LifeSiteNews.com on the “judgement” of now-Pope Benedict saying, “This discernment on the part of Benedict XVI reveals the Holy Father’s depth and wide ranging gifts of spiritual discernment.” O’Brien, author of a book dealing with fantasy literature for children added, “it is consistent with many of the statements he’s been making since his election to the Chair of Peter, indeed for the past 20 years - a probing accurate read of the massing spiritual warfare that is moving to a new level of struggle in western civilization. He is a man in whom a prodigious intellect is integrated with great spiritual gifts. He is the father of the universal church and we would do well to listen to him.”
English translations of the two letters by Cardinal Ratzinger follow:
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
March 7, 2003
Esteemed and dear Ms. Kuby!
Many thanks for your kind letter of February 20th and the informative book which you sent me in the same mail. It is good, that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly.
I would like to suggest that you write to Mr. Peter Fleetwood, (Pontifical Council of Culture, Piazza S. Calisto 16, I00153 Rome) directly and to send him your book.
Many thoughtful families are caught in the whirlwind of controversy over the wildly popular Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling. That is, are these series of novels just harmless, imaginative, children's adventure stories or do they condition young readers to be more open to the occult and serious witchcraft?
It is not easy to answer these questions. Strongly pro-family spokesmen have come out on both sides of the issue.
A clue might be that the establishment media and entertainment industry are ecstatic about Harry Potter. The almost universal enthusiasm from the generally anti-family mainstream media should cause families to pause and at least take a careful look at all the arguments.
It is hoped that the following material will provide quality alternative food for thought to help parents and others to discern the best response to Harry Potter.
Michael D. O'Brien on Harry Potter
We especially direct you to the essay by Michael D. O'Brien (author of A Landscape With Dragons: The Battle for Your Child's Mind) in which he carefully analyzes the Potter phenomenon from a Christian perspective and points out the differences between the Harry Potter series and J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia fantasies. Lord of the Rings has a wizard as a main character, there is also magic, lots of monsters and constant battles between good and evil.
O'Brien's essay is an education in morally sound versus morally dangerous fantasy literature for children. The work goes beyond criticizing the Potter series and stirs the conscience to reflect more seriously on the loss of traditional faith and the danger posed by the secular entertainment media. O'Brien acknowledges the Potter series is a creative, imaginative and powerful drama filled with enticing ideas. However, the allure created, according to O'Brien, heightens the danger that the crude and morally confused concepts will be assimilated and put into practice - especially by some of the more vulnerable in the target audience of impressionable children.
Other helpful articles from reputable sources are also listed below.
There are surprisingly very strong emotions on this topic. Hopefully, readers will emphasize reason and thoughtful, unemotional consideration of what are the most compelling arguments and what is the best course of action in response to the Harry Potter phenomena.
Harry Potter expert criticizes Vatican newspaper’s glowing review of Deathly Hallows 2 LifeSiteNews.com July 19, 2011 Harry Book Teaser: ‘Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture’ by Michael O’Brien LifeSiteNews.com June 17, 2010 Universal Orlando to Open Immersive ‘Harry Potter World’ LifeSiteNews.com May, 19, 2010 Harry Potter and Dumbledore Used to Entice Fans into Activism for Maine Gay "Marriage" Push LifeSiteNews.com October, 16, 2009
Vatican Paper Heaps Praise on Harry Potter Film LifeSiteNews.com July 14, 2009 Under Influence of Harry Potter, Kids are Being Drawn into the "Language and Mechanics" of the Occult LifeSiteNews.com July 24, 2008
Potter Author JK Rowling Equates Christians Who Avoid Potter with Islamic Fundamentalists LifeSiteNews.com March 12, 2008 US Christian Groups React Strongly to Harry Potter Books’ Homosexual Character LifeSiteNews.com October 30, 2007 Harry Potter Fan Website Lauds Rowling Stating a Main Character Is Gay LifeSiteNews.com October 22, 2007 Harry Potter: The Archetype of an Abortion Survivor LifeSiteNews.com September 5, 2007 Trying to Skirt the Pope's (Cardinal Ratzinger's) Negative Appraisal of Harry Potter LifeSiteNews.com August 28, 2007 Harry Potter Fanatics Lash Out at Pope, Michael O'Brien, LifeSiteNews Over Criticism of Novels LifeSiteNews.com August 23, 2007 Harry Potter and "the Death of God" - by Michael D. O'Brien LifeSiteNews.com August 20, 2007 Vatican's Chief Exorcist Repeats Condemnation of Harry Potter Novels LifeSiteNews.com March 1, 2006 Canada Opens First “Hogwarts” Witchcraft School LifeSiteNews.com January 18, 2006 Tolkien and Rowling: Common Ground? LifeSiteNews.com Harry Potter Controversy Carries Over to Vatican Radio LifeSiteNews.com August 15, 2005 Ten Arguments against Harry Potter - By Woman Who Corresponded with Cardinal Ratzinger LifeSiteNews.com June 15, 2005 Pope Opposes Harry Potter Novels - Signed Letters from Cardinal Ratzinger Now Online LifeSiteNews.com July 13, 2005 Pope Benedict Opposes Harry Potter Novels LifeSiteNews.com June 27, 2005 U.S. Judge Rules Schools Cannot Require Parental Permission for Potter Books LifeSite Daily News - April 23, 2003
Dangerous Gnosticism on the Rise LifeSite Daily News - April 14, 2003
World Media Falsely Trumpet Approval of Harry Potter LifeSite Daily News - February 7, 2003
Harry Potter Gets Vatican’s Blessing? Family Life Center International
Harry Potter: An Entry Point into the World of the Occult / New Age Movement Family Life Center International
The Trouble with Harry - John Andrew Murray Family Life Center International
Restoring the Sense of Wonder - Michael D. O'Brien Family Life Center International
Rome's Chief Exorcist Warns Parents against Harry Potter LifeSite Daily News - January 2, 2002
Harry Potter: Pro and Con Reprinted with permission from Jan/Feb 2002 Catholic Insight magazine
Harrycane: a Sign of the Times by Father Lazare de la Mere de Dieu, F.J.,
December 2001 Catholic Insight magazine
Harry Potter and the Paganization of Children's Culture by Michael D. O'Brien
Reprinted with permission from Michael D. O'Brien and Catholic World Report magazine (April 21 edition)
June Letter to Editor of Catholic World Report and Response
From Michael O'Brien Why Harry Potter Goes Awry Zenit interview with Michael O'Brien, December 6, 2001
Harry Potter: Friend or Foe for Kids Zenit, December 6, 2001
Harry Potter: Agent of Conversion by Toni Collins in Envoy magazine
Musings on Harry Potter by Gregory Koukl in Stand to Reason
Harry Potter and the Lost Generations Clare McGrath Merkle, The Cross and the Veil
The Perils of Harry Potter Christianity today
St. Joseph's Covenant Keepers
De-Fanging C.S. Lewis Catholiceducation.org
Potter Books: Wicked Witchcraft?
WorldNet Daily - New documentary claims tales lead to the occult.
The reading phenomenon known as “Harry Potter” is sweeping the globe, and it truly has an international presence as readers in 200 nations, in over 40 languages, indulge in this series. A U.S. consumer research survey reports that “over half of all children between the ages of 6 and 17 have read at least one Harry Potter book.” With the financial backing of Warner Brothers, Mattel, Coca Cola, and Scholastic, Inc., Potter is sure to be a force to reckon with for years to come. Public school educators and many parents in America are thrilled with a series that has captured the imagination of children like no other in history, prompting a revived interest in reading. Reading is a good thing, but not all is as innocent as Potter fans would have others believe.
This series of books by British author J.K. Rowling focuses on the plights of young Harry, who is selected to attend the prestigious 1000-year-old Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry himself is an orphan, his parents (practitioners of “white magic”) murdered by the evil Lord Voldemort (a master of the “Dark Arts” . But “when Lord Voldemort, the most powerful Dark Wizard for a century turned the curse that had killed so many witches and wizards on Harry Potter, it rebounded upon Voldemort, ripping him from his body, and his powers gone, barely alive, he fled.” 
Young Harry is given a strange marking on his forehead. “Through the sacrificial goddess magic of his mother’s love, baby Harry is saved and his blood is given magical powers. Unable to kill Harry, in revenge, Voldemort sears a death curse of a lightning bolt on Harry’s forehead.”  (Some have criticized the imagery behind the lightning bolt itself .) Rowling, a graduate of Exeter University in England, is very familiar with occultic practices, using elements and philosophies behind “pagan religions, Celtic religions, the religions of the druids, witchcraft, [and] Satanism.” 
Little is said during the time Harry’s parents are killed until he is around 10 years old. At the age of 11, Harry travels to Hogwarts, where he and other students are taught by the faculty, all accomplished wizards and witches, how to properly use magic tools, spells and rituals.
One such tool is a tail feather from the powerful, mythical Phoenix bird. The school Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, owns such a bird, a symbol of resurrection. Both Harry and Lord Voldemort use the tail feather in their wand, perhaps symbolizing, as some critics say, that the source of their powers come from the same place, even though Potter and Voldemort are enemies, one using “white” magic and one “dark arts.” The wand is only one of many magical items used and studied. A Fantasy World
Children are understandably fascinated with the kind of power that Harry and others in his world possess. Author J.K. Rowling says,
“The idea that we could have a child who escapes from the confines of the adult world and goes somewhere where he has power, both literally and metaphorically, really appealed to me.” 
Certainly power is appealing, especially “white” witchcraft like this that is made to look so innocent.
Even some Christian leaders agree that it’s “just fantasy” and generally acceptable for the Christian reader, including Chuck Colson of Breakpoint, the editors of World Magazine, and Connie Neal (author of What’s A Christian To Do With Harry Potter?).  However, occult experts, Marcia Montenegro of Christian Answers for the New Age  and Caryl Matrisciana, author of Gods of the New Age , disagree with their Christian peers. Both have personal experience in the occult before becoming Christians.
As one example among many, Caryl points to a chapter in the fourth book entitled Flesh, Blood and Bone.
“Harry is magically transported with his friend Cedric to a dark, scary graveyard. There, Harry is tied to the headstone of Lord Voldemort’s father’s tomb by Voldemort’s slave, Wormtail—a shapeshifter who takes the form of a rat. A slithering snake, synonymous with the presence of Voldemort, circles around Harry. Following an order to kill from a voice of unknown origin, the slave utters a death curse. In shock, Harry witnesses the murder of his friend Cedric.” 
Perhaps all of this sounds a bit scary, but nothing to be concerned about. Potter fans say that this world is just make-believe and has no bearing on the real world. While a few Christians don’t even like to read or see classics such as Sleeping Beauty, Lord of the Rings, or Chronicles of Narnia due to the mere presence of evil, most Christians recognize the good vs. evil element as being clearly delineated. Evil is evil, and good is good, and good is promoted while evil is not.
But in the Potter series, the line is not so clear. The “good” guys practice “white magic”, while the bad guys practice the “Dark Arts”. Readers become fascinated with the magic used (explained in remarkable detail). Yet God is clear in Scripture that any practice of magic is an “abomination” to him. God doesn’t distinguish between “white” and “dark” magic since they both originate from the same source.
“There shall not be found among you anyone who …practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the LORD your God has not appointed such for you.” Deut. 18:10-14
Furthermore, if one were to use the reasoning that such objectionable material can be included in fantasy literature, then “that line of reasoning would tell you that you could include in fantasy any violence, pornography, whatever you wanted, and still defend those books by that very same statement.” 
The problem is, witchcraft is not fantasy; it is a sinful reality in our world.
“J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, has gone through an awful lot of research. She is very accurate (otherwise we would have witches all over the country and the world saying ‘this is not a true representation of our religion.’) This is a true representation of witchcraft, and the black arts, and black magic. And yet we have people that say this is merely fantasy and harmless reading for our children. Actually, what makes this more dangerous is that it is couched in fantasy language, and children’s literature, and made to be humorous, and beautifully written and extremely provocative reading and it just opens up children to want to have the next one. This is what is so harmful.” 
Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged studies elements of Rowlings’s imagery and writings, including the use of the “Potter” name in Pagan religion , shapechanging , meditation , human sacrifice , feminine power, Wicca (the religion of witchcraft) , the tools, spells and curses used in witchcraft , Christian youth and their involvement , communicating with the spirit world, reincarnation, situational ethics in witchcraft, the lightning bolt as a power symbol, broomsticks and witches’ hats as phallic symbols, dabbling in divination and sorcery, recruitment, teaching children dark arts, Scholastic Inc.’s involvement, and more.
We can be sure that this video by Jeremiah Films, while probably the first of its kind to deal with Harry Potter from a biblical cautionary perspective, will not be the last. The Christian Booksellers Association’s 13,000 member annual meeting in 2000 had a noticeable lack of anything Potter.
“Clara Sessoms, who manages Living Water Christian Books in Marion, Ind. [says] ‘I don’t think people fully realize what they’re dealing with, and I think anyone who knows anything about spiritual warfare knows those books can open the door to spiritual bondage.’ ‘And I think it’s worse that children are the target,’ said Jessica Ruemler, a buyer for Living Water. ‘It opens the doors for young minds. You put sorcery in, what do you expect to get out?’” 
Many concerned parents agree. According to the American Library Association, the best-selling Harry Potter series topped the list of the nation’s most frequently challenged books for two years in a row.  Author John Andrew Murray believes that… “With the growing popularity of youth-oriented TV shows on witchcraft—‘Sabrina, the Teenage Witch;’ ‘Charmed;’ ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’—a generation of children is becoming desensitized to the occult. But with Hollywood’s help, Harry Potter will likely surpass all these influences, potentially reaping some grave spiritual consequences.” 
Potter has caused quite a stir in many nations, with several Australian Christian schools supporting a banning of the books. “Dr. Chas Gullo of the Christian Outreach College, a private school in Queensland state, said he read one chapter from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and was exposed to four murders. “It was pretty gory,” Gullo said in Brisbane’s Courier-Mail newspaper.”  Rev. Robert Frisken of Christian Community Schools Ltd in Australia says: “The ordinary person is typified as being bad because they have no (magic) powers, and heroes are the people who are using the occult. Good finds itself in the occult, which is an inversion of morality for many Christian people”  Even many non-Christian parents have been concerned due to the greatly heightened fear that their younger children have after reading Potter’s books. 
While some practicing Wiccans flatly deny any link between Potter’s world and theirs , the evidence is undeniably clear that Potter promotes an interest in magic and the occult. Parents, whether Christian or not, must take an active role in what their children are being exposed to and determine what is appropriate. Christians especially should be guided by God’s Word, the Bible.
Author Richard Abanes has written a book called Harry Potter and the Bible. He says that the movies and books not only teach anti-Christian lessons on the occult, but also moral relativism, and desensitize children to profanity and off-color humor.
So, what is a Christian to do? Ask, seek, and knock. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you lead your family in taking a biblical worldview of morality, seeking to please God (and not conform to man). Seek out what the Bible says about the occult (be sure to read our other articles) and how Christians are to react to it. And knock on the doors of your friends who may also be unsure what to do with Harry Potter. There is a useful video titled “Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged” to share with your family, your church, and others.
1. Dark Arts: “…differ from other forms of magic in the intent of the wizard using it. Most magic is relatively neutral—it can be used for bad or good. Some magic, however, is Evil in its intention through and through. Spells of this kind are often called curses. Curses are spells that are often intended to cause harm to another person. This intention to do harm places that spell into the realm of the Dark Arts…” as quoted from Steve Vander Ark’s The Harry Potter Lexicon http://www.i2k.com/~svderark/lexicon/
4. Some fans mimic this marking by giving themselves a lightning bolt on the forehead. This marking causes some concern, as the lightning bolt, in mythology, is known as Thor’s calling card (the god of thunder, rain and fertility), later used by Hitler’s Nazi party in the form of two crossing lightning bolts (according to Christine Hall’s February 3, 1999 article in ESP Magazine.)
7. In an interview with Michael Ireland of Assist Ministries, Connie Neal justifies her book by saying: “I saw tremendous opportunity to overcome evil with good, diffusing and using Harry Potter to educate kids about occult dangers, share the gospel in a relevant way, teach kids principled moral decision-making, and spiritual discernment. My friends convinced me that I could help Christians who aren’t comfortable explaining Bible teachings as they correlate to popular culture.”
8. “Christian Answers for the New Age is a ministry responding to alternative religions: to inform and educate others about New Age and occult beliefs; to respond to those involved in New Age/occult/Eastern belief systems with the love and truth of Christ (I Peter 3:15-16); and to serve as a resource on aspects of New Age/occult thinking and practices such as astrology, psychic powers, meditation, Witchcraft/Wicca, alternative healing, Magick, etc.” Marcia Montenegro, christiananswersforthenewage.org
9. Caryl Matrisciana, “cofounder and producer of Jeremiah Films Inc., is an author, film producer, commercial artist, researcher and world renowned expert on contemporary religions, cults and the occult [who] helped produce more than thirty documentaries revealing today’s cultural trends, with a special emphasis on religious cults.” She is the author of Gods of the New Age, The Evolution Conspiracy and God Makers II. Info from http://www.therealpotter.com/ask_caryl.htm
10. Julie Foster, staff reporter for WorldNetDaily
17. Caryl Matrisciana calls Wicca “The fastest growing religion in America.” Robert S. McGee, author of The Search for Significance, explains that those involved in Wicca believe “there is no Satan, and therefore no evil spirits. Yet they report experiencing spiritual power from which they receive their power, refusing to label these powers evil, they choose to believe their origin is either from nature or natural from within, but neutral.”
18. When it comes to spells, proponents of the Potter series defend the books by arguing that the spells aren’t real. While this may be true, Matrisciana argues that the principle is laid that “if you learn certain words, you can have power.” (Warned against by Jesus in Matthew 6:6-8) Potter teaches that there is legitimacy in spells.
19. Despite God’s warning (see above) many Christian youth are heavily involved in Potter books. They are unknowingly opening the door to the spiritual world of the occult, often leading to destructive patterns of sexual promiscuity, drug use, depression, etc.
20. “Latest “Harry Potter” book meets cautionary response from Christians” by Art Toalston, Baptist Press, July 13, 2000
21. “Harry Potter Series Tops Annual List of Controversial Books” Bloomberg, February 2, 2001
22. Quote from John Andrew Murray, headmaster of the Episcopal school St. Timothy’s-Hale, Raleigh, N.C., and writer/director of the video “Think About It: Understanding the Impact of TV-Movie Violence,” As quoted in “Latest “Harry Potter” book meets cautionary response from Christians” by Art Toalston, Baptist Press, July 13, 2000
23. “Aussie school bans “violent” Harry Potter”, AP, January 26, 2001
24. Sydney Morning Herald, March 27, 2001
25. “The Trouble With Harry” by Marguerite Kelly, Washington Post, February 14, 2001
26. “Wiccans dispute Potter claims”, Ben Roy, Citizen Online-Newfound Area Bureau, October 26, 2000. However, The Isle of Avalon Foundation (England) began offering a “part-time course in witchcraft for the 21st century” according to a Reuters, April 6, 2001 release, in part due to the renewed interest in the occult. Other witches have also noticed an increase in interest.